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The Sweetness of Freedom

stories of immigrants

Martha Bloomfield

Publication Year: 2010

The Sweetness of Freedom presents an eclectic grouping of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century immigrants' narratives and the personal artifacts, historical documents, and photographs these travelers brought on their journeys to Michigan. Most of the oral histories in this volume are based on interviews conducted with the immigrants themselves.

     Some of the immigrants presented here hoped to gain better education and jobs. Others — refugees — fled their homelands because of war, poverty, repression, religious persecution, or ethnic discrimination. All dreamt of freedom and opportunity. They tell why they left their homelands, why they chose to settle in Michigan, and what they brought or left behind. Some wanted to preserve their heritage, religious customs, traditions, and ethnic identity. Others wanted to forget past conflicts and lost family members. Their stories reveal how they established new lives far away from home, how they endured homesickness and separation, what they gave up and what they gained.


Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xv

Many people participated professionally and personally with this project about Michigan’s immigrants and migrants in a variety of ways and at different stages in the ten-year process from its inception as a research project, then Bloomfield, to do a research project about Michigan’s immigrants and migrants based on oral histories and library and archival documents, artifacts, family photographs, family documents, recipes and ...

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pp. xvii-xx

I first became involved with the authors and this project over ten years ago when it began as a series of interviews in preparation for a research project and then a museum exhibit entitled Movchose to interview me and include my family’s stories, photos and artifacts in the Movers and Seekers exhibit. The exhibit was one Lansing, Michigan, and I was proud that my family’s history was their families had immigrated to the United States. The ...

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pp. 1-28

Each of us travels through life—literally and figuratively— and has a memory of the journey tucked deep within us, and a story to tell. Sometimes we emigrate from our homeland to get a better education or a more satisfying job, or to be closer to (or further from) family, or for better health. Some of ...

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I Have a Beautiful Country to Work From

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pp. 29-50

Almost one and half million people came from Germany to the United States in the 1880s, the peak decade of German immigration. Most settled in the Midwest. They sought economic opportunity as well as religious and political freedom. with his family—his father, Michael, a schoolteacher, his mother, Maria, and his brother and sister. His father wanted him to have greater opportunities to become an artist. They sailed on the steam-...

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Where the Streets Were Paved with Gold

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pp. 51-64

In the late nineteenth century, Jews in Central and Eastern Europe suffered economic pressures and anti-Semitism. The hostility and discrimination they faced as Jews forced many of them to emigrate. In the Russian Empire, which included Lithuania, Ukraine, and part of Poland, Jews could not live outside limited territories. Access to higher education and the professions was severely limited. Pogroms—organized attacks ...

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America Was the Best Country to Live In

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pp. 65-76

Between 1894 and 1922, both the Ottoman Empire and its successor governments in Turkey attempted to eliminate the Armenian minority living in what is now central and as mob violence, starvation, and disease resulted in the deaths of some 1.5 million Armenians. Survivors who were unable to escape the region by emigrating to the United States or Europe fled east he left home and went to St. Paul’s Institute, an American school ...

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We Wanted to Be American

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pp. 77-86

A wave of emigrants left Finland between 1870 and 1920, pushed by economic changes that left many rural people without land or jobs. Russia, which had ruled the country since 1809, provided another push as it tightened its control over government and language, and drafted Finns into the Russian army. Nearly all the Finnish emigrants settled in the United States ...

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Immigration Didn’t Solve All Our Problems

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pp. 87-96

From 1795 until 1918, Poland was divided among Germany, Russia, and Austria. The Russian and German governments, in particular, restricted the Polish language and the Catholic had already worked for a few years in such industrial cities as Lubelski, in Poland, in the late 1800s. They married on July 21, 1903.to find a better life for his family than he could provide as a butler in Poland. Unable to find work on his first trip to America, he ...

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We Weren’t Always Welcome in America

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pp. 97-126

Between 1900 and 1914, hundreds of thousands of Italians, mostly from southern provinces, came to the United States seeking jobs. Already accustomed to seasonal migrations to find work in Italy, southern Italians were among the immigrants most likely to return home. Italian immigration to Michigan before pattern shifted in the early twentieth century, and by 1930 about 73 percent of the state’s Italian-born residents lived in Wayne County....

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Anything That I’ve Set My Mind to, I Usually Accomplish

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pp. 127-148

In the second decade of the twentieth century, rural southern blacks began moving to northern industrial cities in an unprecedented “Great Migration.” Pushed by poverty, indebtedness, racism, and crop failures, they were also lured by the prospect of southerners. The city’s black population grew from about 5,700 in Carlean Gill’s father, Norman Gill, was born in St. Vincent in the Caribbean but left there after a volcanic eruption in 1902 killed ...

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No Mexicans Allowed!

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pp. 149-174

Between 1900 and 1930, population growth, industrialization, and revolution dislocated millions of Mexicans. Many of them—about 1.5 million—migrated north to the United States. During World War I, Michigan sugar companies began recruiting Mexican Americans from Texas as farmworkers. Families of migrants—parents, grandparents, and young ...

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The Trip Became a Great Adventure

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pp. 175-203

In the late nineteenth century, Jews in Central and Eastern Europe suffered economic pressures and anti-Semitism. The hostility and discrimination they faced as Jews forced many and part of Poland, Jews could not live outside limited territories. Access to higher education and professions was severely limited. Nazi Party came to power in 1933. The Nazi Party systematically deprived Jews of their civil rights, excluded them from social and ...

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The Promiseof a Better Future

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pp. 204-217

During World War II, a quarter of a million people—half of them Jewish—were killed in the Netherlands. Many more died of starvation during the four-year-long German occupation. The war left Holland’s countryside flooded with salt water from broken dikes; buildings and factories were stripped or destroyed; and there was little wood left with which to rebuild.To help the country get back on its feet, church officials and the ...

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We Didn’t Know How Our Future Would Be

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pp. 218-238

In the late nineteenth century, changes in Japan’s economy and tax structure led to increased emigration, beginning about 1885. Many of the first to leave went to Hawaii, where large plantations needed workers to grow sugar cane. Especially after 1900, Japanese laborers sought better working conditions on the of anti-alien land laws in western states that excluded noncitizens from owning land. Japanese immigration was severely curtailed by ...

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We Have to Make the Best of the Situation

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pp. 239-254

Mary Kobayashi’s grandfather grew peaches and oranges on the Japanese island of Shikoku in the late 1880s. He owned a towboat and barges for hauling coal and fruit to other parts of Japan. When a typhoon hit the island and destroyed boats, the business was ruined. Japanese tradition dictates that if a family loses its money, the oldest son of the family must pay back...

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From Korea with Love

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pp. 255-270

Prior to World War II, only about 2,000 Koreans had immigrated to the United States. After the war, some Koreans began arriving here, some as spouses of military servicemen. The liberalization of American immigration laws in 1965 coincided with rapid industrialization and urbanization in South Korea, spurring a new wave of more than half a million immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s. One aspect of this immigration was the effort to place Korean children in American families. The Korean ...

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Call Your Brother in Michigan

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pp. 271-296

When Sharkey Haddad turned seven years old in 1968, the Baath Party, took control of the Iraqi government for the second time since his birth. Party leaders knew that many Iraqis objected to Baath rule. Between 1968 and 1973, or person suspected of challenging Baath rule through a series of While Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party ruled Iraq, Sharkey’s father was arrested. Saddam Hussein supported Islam. For people ...

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We Belong to America Just as Much as America Belongs to Us

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pp. 297-342

Beginning in 1932, political power in Lebanon was precari-ously balanced between Christian and Muslim factions. In 1975 sporadic violence between the factions escalated into civil war. Conflicts among Lebanon’s neighbors—Israelis, Syrians, and the Palestinians—spilled over the border. The fighting lasted nese sought homes in safer countries, including the United States. Earlier, most Lebanese emigrants were Christian, but members of ...

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I Never Believed I Would Stay in America

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pp. 323-342

The first wave of Chinese immigration to the United States began in the early nineteenth century, when large num-bers of Chinese came to work as laborers, particularly on in 1882 based on public outcry. Other laws followed that denied Revolution and his policies of relocation, re-education, purging, and educators, artists, writers, and religious leaders were persecuted, imprisoned, or eliminated. While Mao declared the Cultural Revolu-...

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I Can Almost Taste the Sweetness of Freedom

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pp. 343-370

In 1975, after thirty years of nearly continuous warfare and two decades as a divided nation, the Communist government of North Vietnam conquered the South, reuniting the country. officials fled, most taking refuge in the United States, the South’s and 1981. The government, focused on integrating the south ideologically ...

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Be Like the Bees—Make Plenty of Hives and Honey

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pp. 371-390

In 1964, the newly independent African countries of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to become Tanzania. Only in the last decade has the country begun developing a multi-party democracy and a market economy. Tanzanians seeking economic and academic opportunities beyond those at home have settled, sometimes permanently, in other countries. Deo Ngonyani came to study for his Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles

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pp. 391-392

Thank you for traveling with us on our journeys with our immigrant friends and for joining us in discovering their stories. Perhaps their courage and tenacity and profound history. Perhaps you will find some ‘old things or stuff’—such as travel documents, journals, letters, diaries, drawings, photographs, family stories and preserve them for your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, so that they may value and cherish their ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172022
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870139772

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Immigrants -- Michigan -- History -- 20th century.
  • Michigan -- History -- 20th century.
  • Oral history -- Michigan.
  • Michigan -- History -- 19th century.
  • Immigrants -- Michigan -- History -- 19th century.
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